Author, Runner: Kim Chaffee’s Story

Posted May 16, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Author Interview

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Kim Chaffee headshotToday I’m interviewing my friend, critique partner, and author extraordinaire, Kim Chaffee. She is the author of Her Fearless Run:  Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon – a book that received two starred reviews. Ellen Rooney is the talented illustrator whose colorful illustrations and attention to detail are done in a combination of digital media and mixed media collage using paint, paper, and pencil. The book is a perfect collaboration between author and illustrator.

Kim Chaffee’s biography of Kathrine Switzer tells of switserKathrine’s love of running from an early age. Back in the late 1950’s girls weren’t supposed to run. They were “too weak, too fragile, for sports.” That’s not what Kathrine thought. She kept on running. While in college, the men’s coach at Syracuse University saw Kathrine run. He invited her to practice with the team. That’s where she met the volunteer team manager, Arnie Briggs. When he mentioned to Kathrine that women weren’t up to running the distance of the Boston Marathon, she disagreed with him and took his challenge. She applied for her official number by registering as K. V. Switzer. No one knew K. V. Switzer was a woman—not a man. On April 19, 1967, Kathrine Switzer made history by running the entire Boston Marathon with an official number. Her feat opened doors for women to compete in future marathons.

Welcome, Kim. I’m so excited to have you here today.

Why did you decide to write about Kathrine Switzer? And did you have any reservations about writing a biography of a well-known living person?

Thanks so much for having me on the blog today, Cathy! When I started writing, I wasn’t really thinking of ever tackling a biography. I mostly write fiction. But I was home writing one Monday in April 2016 with the Boston Marathon on TV and within view. Kathrine was on, talking about her Boston run in 1967. I was completely pulled into her story and was shocked that as a runner, I had never heard it before. I immediately felt compelled to share her story. In hindsight, I probably should have had some reservations about writing a biography of a well-known living person, but I didn’t while I was writing it. I just kept thinking that I had to do her story justice.

Kim, you’re a Wonder Woman. You’ve run in many races before, but this year you ran the most famous of all marathons – The Boston Marathon. Did writing about Kathrine Switzer have anything to do with your decision to run?  

My goodness! I don’t know about Wonder Woman! But I do love to run and have the best running friends that keep me motivated and push me to challenge myself. Writing about Kathrine had everything to do with my decision to run Boston. I was thinking about it a lot while I was researching and writing the book but that tiny voice of doubt and fear kept creeping in telling me I was crazy. After finishing and selling the book, I just couldn’t shake the thought of needing to run Boston- needing to silence that tiny voice in my head. Kathrine helped me find my fearless and believe in myself.

Can you tell us a bit about how you trained for this long and difficult run?

There are a lot of different marathon training plans out there and I had trouble choosing one so I meshed two together, typed up monthly calendars with motivational quotes, and put one foot in front of the other. My training started in December with three runs/week and two cross-training days. Long runs were done on the weekends and by mid-March, I was feeling a little physically and emotionally drained. Marathon training is no joke. Some runs felt great, others worried me that I had gotten myself into something I wasn’t going to be able to complete. But when I ran my 20-mile long run, a race from Maine, through the Seacoast of NH, and into Massachusetts, I felt ready.

I watched the interview with Kathrine Switzer that took place during the running of the Boston Marathon. She spoke very highly of you and your book. What was it like to meet Kathrine?

I was so surprised when I found out she was talking about the book while I was running! Talk about motivation to keep going! Meeting Kathrine was surreal. We had talked several times and emailed even more before we actually met to do an event together on the Friday before the Marathon so I kind of felt like we were old friends already. She is just as amazing as you would imagine…so genuine and inspiring!

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Lisa Hughes, WBZ-TV News Anchor, Boston

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Lisa Hughes, Shalane Flanagan, Olympian and Boston Marathon Runner, Kathrine Switzer

You also ran with the global nonprofit 261 Fearless, Inc. Can you tell us more about that and what 261 stands for?

Yes! I was honored to run for 261 Fearless, Inc. which is the nonprofit organization founded by Kathrine in 2015. It’s a women’s social running network that aims to support and empower women all around the globe. Amazing things are happening in these clubs! Women in Mumbai, Goma, all over the United States and Europe are finding their strength and self-esteem through running, and we are all united under Kathrine’s iconic bib number from her 1967 run, 261.

Do you and Kathrine have any plans to see each other again?

Yes! We are currently scheduled to do a book event together at a bookstore called Rough Draft in Kingston, New York on July 1!

How was your run on the day of the marathon? Feelings? Emotions?

How much time do we have here? Haha! It was quite a day and I feel like I could go on and on about it. I’ll start by saying it was hard. Not a shocker, I know. But it was harder than I had expected and I think that’s because the day didn’t go as planned. As a runner, you do your best to adapt and overcome obstacles that pop up at any point in a race, be it the night before when your daughter gets sick in your bed, or at mile 17 when your stomach feels queasy (both of these things happened). My goal was simple: cross the finish line. And I got to do that with my son which still brings me to tears when I think about it.

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Kim and her son, Colin

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Kim and her medal

Would you run the marathon again?

 I won’t say no but I don’t have plans to any time soon.

You sponsor an annual 5K Run. Tell us more.

When my brother-in-law was diagnosed with thyroid cancer several years ago, I felt so helpless. I wanted to do something to make a difference but wasn’t sure what. One of my best friends suggested we start a team for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The 5K race started as one of our team fundraisers and then shifted into a stand-alone event that now raises money to support local families afflicted by cancer. This will be our 8th year hosting the Fight 2 Finish Cancer Family Fun Run/Walk 5K in Windham, NH! This year’s event will be on Sunday, June 2nd and we are hoping it will be our biggest year yet. If you are local and would like to join us you can register at www.lightboxreg.com

Now that your training isn’t taking up so much time in your life, what’s next for you with your writing career?

I’ve been doing a bunch of school visits, which as a former second-grade teacher, makes my heart so happy! I definitely have more time to write! Hooray! And I’m still running but not nearly as much. Also, my second book, Nothing Wee About Me, a fiction story about a little girl who uses her grandmother’s magical ladle to go on an adventure and save the day, will be hitting shelves on November 12, so I’m starting to prep for that.

What is some advice you can give to writers about achieving their goals?

Don’t give up. Ever. Even when it gets really hard, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll make it to the finish line.

As always, it’s fabulous being with you, Kim! Thank you so much for doing this interview.

Don’t forget to check out Kim’s forthcoming book.

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Learn more about Kim Chaffee here.

Website:  www.kimchaffee.com

Follow on Twitter:  @Kim_Chaffee

Follow on FB: Kim Chaffee, Children’s Author

Follow on Instagram:  kchaffeebooks

 

 

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A Bit About Voice

Posted May 9, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Writing

Tags: , ,

I was lucky enough to attend three wonderful days at an annual SCBWI conference. I saw old friends, met new friends, and attended some excellent workshops. Now my brain is bursting with information I’d love to share.

Let’s talk a bit about voice. What exactly is it?

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No, this isn’t it!

In many ways, voice is hard to define, but when you read it or hear it, you recognize it immediately.

Voice encompasses many things.

It’s the author’s style of writing.

It’s the sentence structure and the right choice of words.

It’s rhythm and timing.

Voice is the element that makes the author’s writing stand out from others.

It sets the mood and personality of your story.

It’s what pulls the reader into the story creating an emotional connection.

It’s the unique way a character expresses feelings.

Voice is what puts magic into a story.

 

Here are some exceptional mentor texts that ooze voice.

Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

This is Not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith

The Day the Crayons Quit written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Diary of a Worm written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss

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Let your voice be heard!

 

 

 

Celebration of Children’s Book Week

Posted May 2, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Children's Book Week

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This week is the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week.

CBW 2019 Yuyi Morales poster

 

Take to heart what these famous people had to say. Then open a book and read to a child!

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” — Frederick Douglass

“There are many little ways to enlarge your world.  Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney

“To learn to read is to light a fire” — Victor Hugo

 

Check out this article from The New York Times:  In Classic Children’s Books, a Window to Childhood in Past Centuries.

The Rocket Book by Peter Newell is mentioned in the article. This delightful 1912 edition is part of my book collection.

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Inside Rocket Book

Remember:

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” –  Garrison Keillor

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Read Books! Read Books!

An Interview with Vivian Kirkfield

Posted April 25, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Author Interview

Tags: , , , ,

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Today I have the great privilege of interviewing the fabulous Vivian Kirkfield. Vivian is an extremely talented author who is always there to inspire, support, and mentor the community of kidlit writers. Her newest picture Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor, is a biography of Sarah E. Goode, a former slave and one of the first African American woman to receive a patent for her invention of the cabinet bed. This is a beautiful story of the dreams and determination of a young woman as she works to achieve her goals.

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Welcome, Vivian! I’m thrilled to have you here on my blog today. 

In the past, women have been overlooked when it comes to calling attention to their many accomplishments in our nation’s history. How did you learn about Sarah E. Goode’s story and what was it that motivated you to tell it?

I had just taken a class in writing nonfiction picture books and the instructor had recommended we check online for lists of the ‘first person to do this or that’. And, being an obedient student, I followed her advice and plugged in ‘First Woman to do…” into Google. And a list of women came up and Sarah E. Goode was on that list as the first African American woman to receive a U.S. patent in 1885. WOW, I thought…in 1885, women couldn’t vote and, in many states, they couldn’t even own property. And for an African American woman to do that, just 20 years after the abolition of slavery, that was amazing! I knew I had to write that story.

 Great choice!

In order to keep a nonfiction story accurate, research is required. How did you approach researching the life of Sarah?

One of the problems with research is that if the person is not well known, there probably isn’t much written up about them. And this was certainly true for Sarah Goode. There was almost NOTHING online…just two sentences (the same two sentences) on several Black History websites. And NOTHING in print. So, I reached out to my local librarian who reached out to librarians at some of the major libraries…but even they didn’t have much. One sent some photos of the street where Sarah’s store had been located in downtown Chicago. Another sent an advertisement from a local newspaper of the era showing a listing for Sarah’s store. And I checked the census records for Chicago in 1870 when Sarah’s family first lived there and she was 15 years old and then in 1880 when she was already a married woman with a child. In addition, I reached out to the cemetery where Sarah and her family are buried and the cemetery records person sent me a list of the people who are buried in Sarah’s family plot. You need to be persistent and proactive with your research…and most important of all, you need to be precise and keep accurate accounts of where you find all of your information BECAUSE, when your manuscript is bought, the editor and fact-checkers may want to see your documentation.

Mentor texts are valuable in that they are helpful in studying various techniques, strategies, and formats an author uses in his/her writing. Did you use any mentor texts before you began writing the story of Sarah? If you did, please share with us?

I love mentor texts…and always recommend them when I do critiques and give feedback to other writers. For Sweet Dreams, Sarah, I used many including:

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone

After studying the mentor texts, did you have a specific plan in mind as to how you wanted your story to unfold? Story structure? Theme? Craft elements? Tell us how you went about writing your story.

I knew I wanted to grab the reader’s attention immediately…for me, the opening lines are a key element in picture book writing. It’s my way into the story…and the style of the opening lines is kind of how I want the story to unfold. So, as a lover of the element of three, I started the story with three lines:

Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner.

Hurry up!

            Eyes down!

                        Don’t speak!

Slaves were property—like a cow or plow or the cotton that grew in the master’s fields.

And then I continued that format on the next page:

But every day Sarah dreamed of a different life.

A husband.

            A family.

                        A job that she loved.

Her father was a carpenter. With a hammer in his hands, he could build anything. Sarah thought she could, too.

Can you feel the rhythm of each spread? The element of three is very powerful…that’s why you can always hear it in speeches by politicians…for example: LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Three is a magical number…it sounds good to the ear and it feels good to the heart.

 And the ending has the same element of three:

This time a thick envelope arrived from the U.S. Government Patent Office.

Sarah took a slow deep breath.

            She slid out the papers.

                        She read out loud:

 S.E. Goode

Cabinet Bed

No. 322,177. Patented July 14, 1885

Staring at her name in print, Sarah proudly traced each letter. Her idea, her invention, her name in history. She had built more than a piece of furniture. She had built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true.

 I love how you circled back to the beginning and used the element of three at the end. 

Input from other writers and critique partners is an important part of the writing process. Were comments and suggestions from your writing colleagues helpful as you continued to revise your story? Did they make a difference in your final draft?

Yes! Yes! And Yes! I love my critique buddies…they are my support, my encouragement, and I embrace their feedback and suggestions. I don’t always do everything they advise…and sometimes I keep something if I am very passionate about it. For instance, the instructor of that nonfiction picture book writing class had advised I change the beginning. She felt it needed more action and so I placed Sarah in the furniture store right off the bat, turning pages in a catalog and deciding that the furniture that was being sold was too boxy, too bulky, too big. But that didn’t feel right to me…I felt the story needed the powerful picture of slavery in the beginning so that readers could go on the journey with Sarah…from being owned to being the owner of a patent. And so, after several months of playing with the new beginning, I brought back the one I’d had originally.

How many revisions did you make before you were satisfied with your work?

Dozens and dozens…a hundred or more maybe? I sent it into Rate Your Story a month after I wrote it…and it got an ‘8’…on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst. So, I worked on it with my critique buddies…and sent it in again several months later…and it got a ‘3’. And then revised and polished some more and sent it to the Rate Your Story annual contest and it won second place for nonfiction picture books. YAY! And so, I knew I had a strong story and I began submitting that one, pretty much exclusively, whenever I had an opportunity to send a manuscript to an agent or editor. And it paid off because I got four agents who were interested…and, when I finally decided I would go with Essie White, she sent it out right away and we had a book deal with Creston Books within two months.

That’s amazing, Vivian! What can your fans expect next from you?

Thank you so much for asking, Cathy. I have two books in the pipeline for 2020…Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020) and From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves illustrated by Marilyn Gilbert (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). I’m truly excited about both of these books because the Ella/Marilyn manuscript was loved by so many editors but their sales and marketing teams said no…but it’s a wonderful story about the moment when the lives of these two icons intersected and they helped each other. And the Invention book is actually a compilation book of NINE full length, fully illustrated picture book stories, each capturing the AHA moment of that visionary who invented something that changed the landscape of the world. Both are filled with STEM components…the Ella/Marilyn with rich back matter and the Invention book with sidebar info.

And of course, my agent has several manuscripts out on submission and I am currently working on other stories. My only problem is that there are only 24 hours in the day…and I need many more than that to write all of the stories that are in my head and on my heart. Of course, I might have more time if I wasn’t as active on social media, but I do love connecting with the kidlit community and working with other writers and helping them follow their dreams. I truly believe that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it…and I’m thrilled to be living my dream.

Thank you so much for having me, Cathy! It’s a joy to chat with you!

The pleasure is all mine, Vivian. 

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Vivian Kirkfield holding Sweet Dreams, Sarah at the Creston Books/Lerner Books booth at the Bologna Book Fair in Italy.

Other picture books by Vivian Kirkfield not to be missed.

Pippa’s Passover PlatePippa must find her Passover plate before the Seder begins.

Four Otters Toboggan An animal counting book that has an environmental theme.

Find out more about Vivian Kirkfield here.

Bunnies or Ducklings?

Posted April 18, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Holiday Books

Tags: , , ,

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Don’t let these ducklings fool you. They’re the famous ducklings from MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, and they take great pride in dressing up for special occasions. Hippity-hop on over the Boston Public Garden to see them during this Easter season. These ducklings will quack you up!

Here are some egg-cellent Easter books for your little ones. Check them out.

The Littlest Bunny

Here Comes the Easter Bunny

Happy Easter, Mouse! (If You Give...)

Happy Easter, Mouse

The Runaway Egg

The Runaway Egg

Llama Llama Easter Egg

Llama Llama Easter Egg

Happy Easter, Little Hoo!

The Golden Egg Book

 

 

 

 

It’s National Library Week!

Posted April 11, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: National Library Week

Tags: , ,

This week we celebrate libraries, and today is Take Action for Libraries Day. Share your library story on Twitter at #MyLibraryMyStory.

There are big libraries and small libraries. There are public libraries, Little Free Libraries, school libraries, and home libraries. No matter what the size or shape, libraries are a gift to all of us. Be thankful we have free access to them and the amenities they offer to help improve our lives.

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“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”   ~Neil Gaiman, Author

 

 

 

 

Poetry Sings!

Posted April 4, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: National Poetry Month

Tags: , , , ,

April is National Poetry Month.

Meghan Trainor sings, “…I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass…” She’s got the rhythm. She’s got the beat. So does poetry. It’s all about using language to create rhythm and sounds that have the ability to elicit emotions. Meghan Trainor sings and so does poetry.

Poetry can be many things —evocative, lively, joyful, whimsical, humorous. During National Poetry Month, take some time to find your favorite type of poetry and enjoy!

Below are some delightful poetry book suggestions for young readers.

Sing a Song of Seasons

My First Book of Haiku Poems

Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry

More poetry book suggestions:

4 Great Kids’ Books for National Poetry Month

Other websites to check out for National Poetry Month.

Reading Rockets

30 Ways to Celebrate — A Poem A Day and More

 

 


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